Londrino in Bermondsey is the brainchild of Leandro Carreira. Hailing from Leiria and having spent time at the legendary Mugaritz in San Sebastian before a year-long residency at Climpson’s Arch, Londrino is his first solo venture.
Whilst the food is mostly inspired by his native Portugal, the setting doesn’t exactly evoke the terracotta rooftops of Lisbon or holidays in the Algarve. Shadowed by The Shard and nestled in the sun-deprived backstreets of London Bridge, it’s perhaps a blend of all things London at the moment. This is, I believe, intentional: after all, Londrino is the Portuguese word for “Londoner” and Carreira was keen to point out at the soft launch stage that this is not a Portuguese restaurant per se. The sparse faux-industrial look is as ubiquitous as a regretful Brexiter, whilst the exposed show kitchen could be from Pastaio and the beech chairs with pea-green padding taken from a Mildred’s.
That all may sound dull and depressing but the food and wine certainly lifted my spirits. Carreira cleverly marries Portuguese cuisine with ingredients and ideas closer to home (the bread is hand-delivered daily from a bakery around the corner and the butter – oh the butter! – is made from Jersey milk and cream). A fusion which, quite rightly, challenges those who deny an ever-closer union between the peoples and produce of Europe.
flavour is king, less-is-more the guiding philosophy
Londrino has its own wine bar area serving snacks (“pesticos”) and glasses of wine on a no-reservation basis. Under the direction of sommelier Cameron Dewar, the list showcases some lesser-known Portuguese wines, supported by Spanish classics. On this visit I sampled the Vadio Bruto from the Bairrada region – a sprightly and vivacious sparkling wine – and the Filipa Pato, a young red wine made from baga, an indigenous grape, from a relatively new winemaker in the same region. Both paired beautifully with the food. This may be Bermondsey but if you close your eyes you can at least imagine you’re in sunnier climes.
As for the restaurant proper, sharing plates are encouraged but you’re not compelled to go down that route. Indeed, there’s a very good value lunch menu which will set you back £25 for 3 courses.
The food is delightful without being showy. A starter of trout came served with sea herbs and horseradish grated over – it wouldn’t win any prizes for great presentation, yet it was delicious, especially with the accompanying Vadio Bruto. Following this, the Dexter beef with esparregado (creamed spinach) was another simplistic yet effective dish: the beef was cooked delicately, it was flavoursome and melted in the mouth, whilst the spinach puree had lemon and garlic running through. This, and the batatas a murro (garlic crushed potatoes), would be enough to render you unkissable for a week – but it’s the kind of bold and uncompromising Iberian taste sensation that throws caution to the wind. Sea food features prominently: red prawns with Madeira, a razor clam tart and langoustine with pimentão all enticed. Overall, flavour is king, less-is-more the guiding philosophy.
there is already a lot to admire about Londrino
The only slight let down of the meal was dessert: a rock-hard almond tart with a quenelle of coffee ice cream. You could break your teeth on that tart. I’m not sure if this was intentional but food that is physically difficult to eat can suck all the enjoyment out of a meal. Give me a flaky, custardy Pastel de Nata any day.
Despite the dessert, there is already a lot to admire about Londrino and it is, I understand, tipped for Michelin stardom. The pricing is fair and the staff are courteous, professional and knowledgeable when questioned. But at the moment it’s a little rough round the edges. With a little polishing and refinement it could be fantastic.
by J A Smith